Monday, October 05, 2009

U2 Concert at Giants Stadium

Where the Streets Have No Name

Okay, I admit I’m a big fan of  Bono and  U2.  I love how they blend compelling lyrics, delightful sights and sounds, top performance, social commentary, and humanitarian causes in a seamless liturgy of a rock concert/love fest in huge stadiums.  I  own three previous concert tour DVD’s  but had never attended a live event until last week at Giants Stadium.   

It was my good friend’s birthday.  Jeff Markay had given me Bono-style sun glasses for my birthday a few years ago, and we had gone together to a Bruce Springsteen concert last year, so this year was an opportunity to experience together U2’s 360 Tour.  

At first blush we considered wearing our clerical albs to the concert and offering a pre-concert ‘U2Charist'
in the parking lot for ‘whosoever will’ among the devoted tail gate party crowd. But after floating the idea out to family and friends, they unanimously said “Not cool”, particularly my teenage daughters; so we went in our ‘secular’ attire simply as U2thiasts.  Early enough to enjoy burritos near a relatively unknown pond in the Meadowlands adjacent to the parking lot of Giant Stadium. 
Once we found our way to the third tier of the Stadium and settled into our seats, I called my new best friend, Tom, on his cell phone to see if he could get us a back stage pass.  Tom was working lights in one of the legs of the tall spider stage and was unable to get us in.  “Security was too tight,” he said. 
U2's "360 Degree" tour takes its name from the 150-foot circular stage and high tower that imposes itself in its various venues.  The multimillion dollar transformer was a wonder to behold. 360 degree video screens, four spider legs for lighting, a Blackberry-sponsored steeple of fire and smoke (for better reception?). It looked like a big green spaceship to me, or ‘a close encounter of the third kind’ of mother ship capable of taking many fans with the band to a place ‘where the streets have no name.’  The New York Times described the set as “concert in the round under a claw-like, spired structure that’s part insect, part spacecraft, part cathedral.”
The New York Times: MUSIC REVIEW: “U2 in the Round, Fun With a Mission”
Back stage Tom told me that it took the road crew of 200 people 40 hours to assemble the huge Spider-like stage on the field of the Stadium.  (It only takes 40 stage hands a few hours to assemble Bruce Springsteen’s stage). 
“It will also take us 40 plus hours to take down the stage,” Tom explained on the phone.  
“Then how do you put it up and take it down in time for the next concert, since U2 does a show every night during their world tour?” I asked.  
“Well, there three of them:  one is going up, one is coming down, and one is in use at all times on the tour.”
I tried to calculate the cost of three mother ships plus 200 paid crew members times 40 hours @ union wages times 20 concerts in two months.  And then calculate what 80,000 ticket-paying fans each night generate in revenue to pay for the extravagance.  It kept me preoccupied until the concert began. 
Finally, after the warm up act, Bono and his Band processed from the back and mounted the platform.  I was struck by the liturgical structure of the whole concert.  It began with an introit, an opening song—“You are so Beautiful” and then an invocation from Bono: 
“HELLO NEW JERSEY!”  he shouted out.  Here we are back in Giants Stadium--our 79th concert in Giants stadium.  We’re not sure we can pay all the songs we plan to play tonight, but we have a space ship, and we have places to go. But we’re not going anywhere without YOU…?”
The crowd roared their willingness and got on board. 
Over the course of 2.5 hours, they played lots of familiar songs and some new ones:
"I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For"

I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight (David O'Reilly version)


City Of Blinding Lights

Beautiful Day


Then, an incredibly delivered song from their new album, “No Line on the Horizon” became a 21st century prayer—a call out to God-- lifting the soul to a higher place:  
"Unknown Caller" began with a chant with Bono calling and the crowd responding:
Oh, oh
Oh, oh
Oh, oh

Oh, oh…
Sunshine, sunshine
Sunshine, sunshine
Oh, oh
Oh, oh…

I was lost between the midnight and the dawning
In a place of no consequence or company
3:33 when the numbers fell off the clock face
Speed-dialing with no signal at all[1]

Go, shout it out, rise up
Oh, oh
Escape yourself and gravity
Hear me, cease to speak that I may speak
Shush now
Oh, oh
Force quit and move to trash[2]

I was right there at the top of the bottom
On the edge of the known universe
Where I wanted to be
I had driven to the scene of the accident
And I sat there waiting for me

Restart and re-boot yourself
You're free to go
Oh, oh
Shout for joy if you get the chance
Password, you, enter here, right now

Oh, oh
You know your name so punch it in
Hear me, cease to speak that I may speak
Shush now
Oh, oh
Then don't move or say a thing

Well, you really had to be there to chant with Bono and be transported to a different place (that’s right, to that place where the streets have no name).

Then, another unbelievably spiritual thing happened:  Giants Stadium became still and silent.  Slowly and deliberately, and ever so quietly, Bono started singing “Amazing Grace.”  More amazing was the crowd of 80,000 singing with him.    ‘Amazing Grace how sweet the sound’ segued into my favorite song (you guessed it): “Where the Streets Have No Name.”  followed by “Beautiful Day”.
As always at a U2 concert, Bono called the congregation to faith and social activism. The song “Walk On” was dedicated to Aung San Suu Kyi, the opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate under house arrest in Myanmar.  Dozens of her supporters—Amnesty volunteers we heard--paraded onstage and around the circle with her photograph.  He also called out for salaam for Iran and Iraq.
Then, unexpectedly, Bishop Desmond Tutu appeared larger than life on the 360 degree screen of the Mother Space with a message for us all to hear: “You are the ones who marched for civil rights; you are the ones who brought down appartied; and you are the ones who are needed now!”
The Bishop praised resistance movements across geography and history, pleaded for aid for Africa, and introduced the “One” Campaign.
The liturgically designed rock concert culminated in U2’s signature ‘One’ set.
One love
One life
When it's one need
In the night
One love
We get to share it
Leaves you baby if you
Don't care for it

Too late
To drag the past out into the light
We're one, but we're not the same
We get to
Carry each other
Carry each other

Have you come here for forgiveness
Have you come to raise the dead
Have you come here to play Jesus
To the lepers in your head

When the moment came during the song for all of us to get out our cell phones to light up the stadium, we did so in unison and with a sense of a mass movement and global community becoming One. Imagine 80,000 points of light waving slowly back and forth in Giants Stadium as Bono shouts it out.
One love
One blood
One life
You got to do what you should
One life
With each other
One life
But we're not the same
We get to
Carry each other
Carry each other


I knew my Blackberry was emitting as much light as it could from its limited screen.  But then I looked into the screen of Jeff’s iPhone and beheld a bright candle flickering in the dark.  No way.  An iPhone application of a fully flickering bright candle.  Over the years, fans have moved from holding candles, to cigarette lighters, to cell phones, and now to virtual flames on iPhones in the air.  
For the encore, Bono returned to the stage in a red jacket that lit up along its seams, and sang through a wheel within a wheel microphone “Ultra Violet (Light My Way)”--apparently a love song to his congregation in the Stadium.
I watched him through binoculars as he left the arena, flashing his smile and a peace sign, and shaking only one hand—the young man in a wheel chair who had waited for him at the Gate.
The next day, while I was still basking in the after-glow of the concert experience, I received by email from Jeff these video clips of the concert at Giant Stadium and elsewhere:

She's The One / Desire (Bruce Springsteen)

Bono singing Amazing Grace as intro into Where the Streets Have No Name...Amazing.

A more complete tutu clip but without the song...

Another clip of Tutu at another concert:

Music Review from the New York Times:
U2 Praise & Worship: 40/Streets  with Bono preaching 
Concert photos:

Jim Wallace’s blog:
It’s a rare thing to see and hear someone who embodies the values of Shalom/Salaam/Peace.  For me, at least, Bono is the One.

[1] The lyrical reference to 3:33 probably refers to the Bible verse of Jeremiah 33:3: "Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know." U2's lead singer Bono said in an interview with Rolling Stone, "It's known as 'God's telephone number.'" Check out the background of the cover of All That You Can't Leave Behind.

[2] 'Force quit and move to trash' is a reference to Mac computers crashing, and 'reboot yourself' and 'password' are similar computer references, used here, I think, as prompts to pray, repent, have faith, meditate, be silent.